Manipulating emotions – is what you feel truly your own?

Have you ever wondered what tricks the advertising industry uses to make us buy things we do not necessarily need?

Imagine seeing an advertisement for sunscreen on TV. You see a happy family on the beach, applying sunscreen to their skin. In the background, you see people smiling, laughing, having fun. A good way to psychologically prime you into buying this sunscreen is by exposing you to positive emotions. Even if you were not consciously aware of the facial expressions of all the people having fun at the beach, you would nevertheless feel some positive emotion afterwards. Now imagine you are walking through the aisles of your local grocery store. You are scanning the shelves for the things you need when … wait … isn’t this the sunscreen from the beach ad? Although not consciously aware of it, you feel happy when seeing this product, which makes you buy the sunscreen. This is because the advertisement clip full of positive emotions unconsciously influences your emotional state, a phenomenon called ‘affective priming’.

Human faces are evolutionary important for us. Therefore, it is not surprising that the facial expressions of others can influence our emotional state. But what about emoji? Do they have the same effect? Nowadays, and especially in times of Covid-19, online communication becomes more and more important. The lack of face-to-face contact makes communication difficult. Therefore, Emoji are used to compensate for the lack of non-verbal behavior and to convey emotional content. Could emoji prime our emotional state in the same way as the faces seen in the sunscreen advertisement? And if this is the case, does this mean the advertising industry has even more in stock to manipulate us into buying their products?

If you are interested in learning more about affective priming and the world of emoji, stay tuned!

By E. Czarnojan, M. Klohs, K. Pavlíčková, & L.Wassertheurer

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